Thursday, May 19, 2005

How you know it's time to leave Indonesia

1. You see a chicken crossing the road and you spend a good ten minutes seriously considering why the chicken was crossing the road.

2. You’re so tired that you can sleep in any sort of contorted position in any sort of vehicle driving on any condition of road.

3. You’ve reached that special state of zen so that even when your driver decides to play chicken with a TNI army semi it doesn’t phase you.

4. The malaria medication runs out.

5. It drops to the low 90’s and seems cold.

6. You forget what warm water feels like…or why anyone would want warm water for anything.

7. You walk into a western-style toilet and have to stop and think how to use it.

8. Batting mosquitos with an electrified/glorified badminton racquet has become your idea of a ‘well-spent evening’.

9. The thought of eating another kernel of rice makes you physically ill.

10. You can no longer tell if you’re actually in an earthquake or imagining it…and you don’t really care.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Awash in Cash

Apart from the maddening heat the thing that is the most annoying here is the feeling that something is always, always crawling on you. And then to realize that's because something IS crawling on you. Ants, mosquitoes, flies, spiders - there's always something crawling around/on you. There are these particularly large kind of ants here that can't be killed by stepping on them. After you lift your foot there the ant is looking kind of dazed, perhaps with a broken leg or two, dragging itself off to mount a new attack with all its little friends. So in an attempt to get away from things crawling on me and the constant chatter of living with a gazillion people with whom you spend every waking hour, I headed for the roof. It was there, three stories up, waiting for the next big earthquake melt the place into a pile of rubble, I realized how absolutely absurd this disaster is. No kidding. I just spent most of the day writing a proposal for $700,000 of a $2.5 million grant that we're already guaranteed. Now, I don't know about you but in the sane part of the universe you write the proposal and then ask for the money...and you usually don't get it. Here, we're getting the money and then coming up with proposals because we've got to spend it on something. People can't get rid of their cash fast enough. One NGO has several hundred million to spend and are building schools - no lie - without using any nails. Just for the sheer craftsmanship of it, and the fact that they can afford it. Contractors come back with bids and we have to tell them that it's too cheap. How are we supposed to spend all this money? The UN has addressed this problem with even bigger, better outfitted cars. All their cars have snorkels so they can fjord deep rivers, or survive the next tsunami, I guess. There aren't a lot of deep rivers around here. I suggested more staff retreats on Bali.